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Friday, December 13, 2013

Dad Survives Financial Hardship During the Great Depression

Because of financial hardship, many African American children sometimes live with relatives for a while. It is not uncommon for children to reside with an aunt or uncle for extended periods of times. Children from "up north" in the United States would often spend their summers in the south.They stayed with loving yet stern grandparents who would pass on important traditions of lifestyle and culture.

 I also have many friends who shared stories of staying down south, or in the country surrounded by tons of cousins in the summertime. These trips were mainly because they were out of school and relatives were the trusted resource for childcare. Children were supervised, and consequently not getting into mischief, nor running the air conditioner all day long and eating up all the food.

Fresh, home-cooked food was always featured in my friends' "down south" stories, along with tales of outdoor games, cook-outs and family reunions. Friends would unconsciously slip into an Alabama, Georgia, or Carolina accent when discussing their relatives and the great time that they had visiting. On the few occasions when I traveled to the south as a youngster, kids would remark, "Where is Connecticut?", or "You talk so proper."

My father lived with his maternal grandparents in Tampa, Florida. It was after directly after the "Dad Causes His Family To Get Fired"  incident. At one time his entire family lived with his grandparents after the Primus Family job dismissal. Eventually, the family secured employment in Daytona Beach, FL. Dad remained with his grandparents and an aunt in Tampa. He indicated that he was close in age to his younger brother Ted and that times "were rough during the Great Depression." One less mouth to feed would be easier.

Dad explained he was spoiled by his grandparents. His grandfather was Z.K. Rose, an African Methodist Episcopal minister who had his own church. The Rose family lived in a parsonage. Pastor Rose was given milk, sweet potatoes and "a few quarters thrown in the cigar box" by grateful church members. My father accompanied him on some of his ministerial trips. The presiding elder would pay dad's grandfather once a month.  His other job was working in a phosphate mine in Floral City, Florida.

Dad went to school every day with his Aunt Bootsie, whose real name was Loretta. She was unmarried then and an elementary school teacher. His classmates included Black Cubans.  They were forced to attend his segregated school away from their siblings that had a White appearance. Cuban families immigrating to America for a better life were racially divided within their own family. One does not have to be a revolutionary psychiatrist like Frantz Fanon to guess the inter-generational familial damage this policy created.

The Rose family lived across the street from a Cuban store. Dad said he was able to eat sausage all the time. That fact is telling; sausage was considered a delicacy due to adverse economic conditions. Americans were forced to have meatless dinners. Furthermore, back in 1928, Herbert Hoover's Republican campaign brochure promised a "Chicken in every pot"* for Americans. Americans were starving and desperate. There were no assistance programs such as government cheese, or free and reduced lunch programs for hungry school children. Folks had to be extremely resourceful when it came to meals.

One of my father's candies of choice.
Named after New York Yankee Babe Ruth.

After some time, Dad moved to Daytona Beach, Florida and lived with his parents and brothers and sisters. He attended Bonner Elementary School there. His grandparents and his aunt regularly sent him money. Dad's pockets were always jingling with nickles and dimes. Additionally, he would eat Baby Ruth and Goodbar chocolate candy bars in front of his siblings and refused to share. I guess this is where the "spoiled rotten" part comes into play.

 As a teenager Dad worked at Hubert's Pharmacy and Harry's grocery store. He swept and arranged items in the stores, and loaded the car for delivery. Obviously, few people owned cars. Dad delivered groceries on his bike. He was also a newspaper carrier and had educator and civil rights icon Mary McLeod Bethune on his paper route.

Apparently, Dad was a hard worker as a juvenile. And that spoiled rotten part? He eventually outgrew that phase and made ultimate sacrifices for his country and family. A true Marine.

Notes: Frantz Fanon (1925-1961) is a Martinique born, French writer, psychiatrist and activist. He is famous for his books, White Masks, Black Skin and The Wretched of the Earth. Fanon became involved in the movement to free Algeria from French colonialism. He has had a profound effect on post-colonial discourse and leaders.

*"Chicken in a pot every Sunday" was originally attributed to Henry IV of France, when speaking about peasants during the 17th century.

**African Methodist Episcopal Church-Was the first major religious denomination in the Western World that had its origin over sociological and theological beliefs and differences. It rejected the negative theological interpretations which rendered persons of African descent second class citizens. Its founder was the Reverend Richard Allen of Philadelphia, PA in 1816. Allen and other leaders left St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church because of discrimination. From

***Phosphate is a mineral that is mined. In north America it can be found in central Florida. Plants need phosphates to stimulate healthy root development. Phosphates are used it in food, and in industrial detergents, acts as a anti-corrosion agent, plus a myriad of other uses.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Dad Causes His Family to Get Fired During the Great Depression

I have described my father's life as an elderly veteran for quite a few posts now. But a popular post among readers is the entry, The Great Depression and Hard Times: Part I.  The post strikes an emotional chord with people because of the the similarities with the Great Recession, which is commonly known as the worst recession since the Great Depression. ( The Great Recession is believed to have started in 2007)

Some people now have to go to food banks, and apply for unemployment insurance for the first time. "Thrifting" and holding out on unnecessary purchases became the norm. Middle class people lost significant wealth and the poor became even poorer. Global readers have been effected by the Great Recession, and regular folk, students, the curious, all wanted to glean some lessons from The Great Depression, a destitute time in American history. Moreover, the frustration that the unemployed have in trying to seek jobs when they are fewer positions available fueled discontent among the younger generation. Millennials, as they are called, had difficulty obtaining employment after graduating college or they are inevitably underemployed. On the other hand, there is also ageism; companies do not want to pay higher salaries and health insurance to older applicants because of the additional expenses.

 Readers researched the Great Depression because they were curious about the types of food that families ate, and how Americans managed day to day. They were particularly concerned about the plight of African Americans, who occupied the bottom rung of the socio-economic ladder, as previously enslaved chattel. I know this as I check the key words which cause viewers to land on Montford Point Marine and Honor Blogspot.


"You know, we used to live in Palm Beach County, Florida," My father stated, when I shared that I traveled to the area.
"My father had a brother named Howard. Some of them ended up in Missouri, and other places but you do have relatives there. You also had a cousin who worked at Clark College*, do you remember her?" "Yes, I remember her," I answered. She was a dorm director and was pretty popular.

"My father's family worked for a wealthy family. I caused my family to get fired."

It was my dad's notorious story of mischief. The story was passed around among family and extended relatives. Family members usually tell the story with raucous laughter, unable to recount the story with a straight face and a serious tone.

The story went like this:

Dad's father was a landscaper. Dad's mother was a domestic, standard occupations for Negros during the early part of the 1900s. His parents were blessed enough to secure work as a couple employed by a rich family. The wealthy family were members of a well to do community in Palm Beach, who enjoyed the posh lifestyle and resided in a palatial estate. The building boom, attractive climate, and beautiful Spanish architecture made Palm Beach the perfect locale for moneyed entrepreneurs. Palm Beach was a winter haven for the rich back then as it is now. It represents one of  the highest per capital income locales in the United States.

Dad began playing with the owner's little son. The son had a shiny new tricycle. This trike was especially appealing to dad, for many children had no toys or bicycles. Toys that were in existence either were hand me downs, or makeshift.

Suddenly, Dad and his new little friend ended up in the water that bordered the lovely compound. Neither child could swim and their frantic cries for help reverberated throughout the grounds. The male adults, clad in white seersucker suits, rushed to the aid of the young boys, dad remembered. I know for a fact that my father could not swim; the young boys could have easily drowned. "I want you to leave the premises NOW!!" The employer shouted to the Primus family. No opportunity was made to explain, or given extra time to make alternative housing arrangements.

The Primus family were immediately plunged into unemployment as a result of a Dad's incident with the tricycle.


 My paternal grandfather was forced to walk many miles looking for employment in the hot Florida sun. There were no state labor departments or applying for positions from the comfort of home electronically like today. Pictures of this era show men going from town to town on foot, desperately looking for work. Some places resented the influx of unemployed men in their area, due to to the scarcity of jobs and food. Dad said that the family stayed with friends during this stressful time.

The horror of losing a job for a breadwinner can be monumental. The Primus family consisted of numerous children during this dire situation. Dad had major guilt, which was a considerable amount of pain for a young child to bear. To top it off, he was described as a child with considerable energy, and simply could not sit still.

Even now, when I watch my Dad try and stand up after sitting, I notice the impulse to move quickly;  his "chronologically advanced" joints remind him to slow down.This same energy enabled him to work several jobs, own a business, get a real estate license, travel, sign up for combat duty as a Marine, socialize and participate as an active member of the Masons.** The list goes on. In short, he is the type of individual who was in perpetual motion.

However, when you are kid and your family gets fired because of your extra energy and carelessness, there is no consolation. All you know is that your parents aren't happy with you and your family has now joined the significant ranks of the unemployed -- during the Great Depression.

See Also:  The Great Depression Part II

* Clark College is now known as Clark Atlanta University-Clark Atlanta University (CAU), established in 1988 as a result of the consolidation of two independent historically black institutions - Atlanta University (1865) and Clark College (1869), is a United Methodist Church-related, private, coeducational, residential, and comprehensive urban research university. The University offers undergraduate, graduate and professional, and non-degree certificate programs.

**Prince Hall Masonry- is a branch of North American Freemasonry founded by Prince Hall in the 18th century and composed predominantly of African Americans. 
The ideas of liberty, equality and peace were appealing to men of color, who were turned down by the Boston Chapter.

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